How would you feel if your life turns out opposite to what you plan?

How would you feel if your life is radically changed by society, opposite to what you want it to be?

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Most people are sincere to plan their life according to what they see as fit to their life goals and values. But sometimes, society and historical events alter this plan and turn it opposite or substantially different from what the person intends it be.

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I remember the late Father Diego whom I personally knew when we were still studying in the same college seminary. He was an intelligent, honest, and God-fearing seminarian. I  predicted that he would be a good and holy priest, judging from his personality and piety. Few years later, I heard that he was ordained priest and was doing well in his ministry.

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But my prediction turned out to be totally different from what actually happened to him, some few years after his ordination. I didn’t expect the tragic ending of his life. He encountered personal and pastoral problems in his ministry as a diocesan priest. He met a woman whom he didn’t know to have secret vices. He left the priesthood and live with her. Soon he discovered that his partner had a secret relationship with another man, addicted to cigarettes and gambling. He also faced poverty after he left the ministry. As an ex-priest, he could not find a stable and high-paying job. He was also lonely and had lost contact with his brother priests and old friends in his parish.

As his personal and economic problems piled up, Father Diego suffered a serious stroke and became totally confined to a wheelchair. The infidelity of his partner intensified when he became totally disabled. Neglected with no money and friends who could help and cheer him up, Father Diego died at an early age of around 40 years old. What appeared to be a life of service and holiness for Father Diego became a life of suffering, frustration, and even excommunication by the Church he loved.

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The German sociologist Max Weber speaks about the 2 consequences of human action and decision: The intended and the unintended effects. The intended effect is the purpose of a person’s action, while the unintended effect is the unforeseen effect of his or her action. According to Weber, one cannot avoid the unintended effects of human action. What is intended by the actor for his or her life may be good and noble but because of historical events beyond control, the result of the action maybe negative or opposite to what he or she intended. Father Diego is a deeply religious and sincere person who intended to follow Christ and serve people in the Church. But because of problems and life circumstances beyond his control, what he intended for his life did not occur but the unintended consequences such as leaving the priesthood, neglect and infidelity of his girlfriend,  and frustration. Indeed, life can be cruel if one is not prepared for the future.

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Why People’s Commitments Change?

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INTRODUCTION

Why people’s commitments change? Despite the fact that people promise to love one another or married couples take the wedding vows seriously, permanent commitment to stay together is not always attainable.

Well, let me just explain here two important reasons why commitment in a relationship changes despite the serious promise of couples to stay together no matter what happens in the future.

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First, people change. Thus, what people promise today may change through time. There is one theory in anthropology and sociology which states that a person is an open system. This means that a person’s self is always being influenced by culture and society. It is not a finished product. The moment the person is born, the mind begins to receive impressions and images based on experience that gradually form his or her self. This continues until his or her death. Thus, a person’s perception of his or her self as a committed loving person in a particular historical moment such as the wedding or engagement day is still subject to future historical events that can break this commitment, which he or she may not foresee or anticipate. One lawyer married his wife but has not made a formal break-up with his girlfriend. Five years later, they accidentally met each other. Despite his marital promise to love his wife forever, he did not expect that he would commit extra-marital affairs with his former girlfriend.

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Second, society and social environment surrounding the relationship change, thus people’s loving commitments change. Depending on the value system of the couples, historical events often change people’s commitment. For instance, the couple undergoing extreme stress due to poverty and  financial problems after marriage can lead to divorce or separation. Job loss or retrenchment due to economic recession and underdevelopment may affect people’s commitment. Maintaining a relationship implies resource allocation. It’s difficult to maintain a relationship without the necessary resources and money to meet the needs of the couple and their dependents.

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The advent of the Internet and digital technology can be both a blessing and a curse. The cyberspace and mobile technology have done a lot of advantages to create and maintain romantic and marital relationships. But this societal change in technology also facilitate infidelity, relationship break-ups, or separation of married people, since it is very easy to meet new people in the cyberspace and social media with numerous dating sites and chat rooms. Again, people may be very committed with their loving relationships, but with the constant technological change in society that facilitates infidelity, commitments become more difficult to maintain. Unless the couples believe in something supernatural or some form of spirituality as a foundation of their loving relationship that transcends the material world, maintaining a commitment will always be a great challenge to every one living in today’s fast-changing technological age. Cheers!

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Photo credit: shutterstock

Does Age Imply Control in a Relationship?

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Age does matter in a relationship whether one likes it or not. Although there other personal and social factors that can affect the social interaction of couples in a particular society, age definitely has an effect on the way partners relate with each other. Age is an informal social norm that somehow affects social interaction. The higher is the age, the higher is the influence of the older partner over the younger companion. Because he or she has more experience, the older partner will tend to guide the younger mate. This is particularly true if the age gap is wider.

Age implies length of experience in life. Older people have more encounters with tragedies and problems in life compared to younger ones. Thus, they tend dominate younger partners because they tend to believe that they know better than the other. Of course, this is only a general rule, since personality and other social factors can overcome this tendency. Thus, a younger partner with a domineering personality can control an older partner with a weaker personality. For instance, a gut person can easily dominate a heart or head person despite the age gap. Inspite of this, older people still tend to play the parent role in the relationship in general.

Thomas Anthony Harris published a classic self-help book entitled I’m OK – You’re OK as a practical guide to transactional analysis as a method for solving problems in life.Transactional analysis (TA) is a psychoanalytic theory and method of therapy wherein social transactions are analyzed to determine the ego state of the patient. A person’s ego can either act as a parent, adult, and child depending on the situation.

The problem with older partners in a loving relationship is that they tend to often act on their parent egos and dominate the younger partners who are forced to act on their adult or child roles to avoid conflict in their daily interactions. Thus, depending on the cultural standards, it is advisable that the age gap of lovers must be not very wide as this can pose problems both in their personal interaction and relationship adjustment. Maybe, 5 years or less is age gap is preferable, but more than 10 age gap can be challenging for couples to maintain their relationship. Of course, what matters most are the maturity and commitment of the partners to stay together despite the odds in the relationship.

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Photo1:     Hollywood couple with 20-year age gap: JASON STATHAM AND ROSIE HUNTINGTON WHITELEY (Photo credit: ALBERTO RODRIGUEZ/NBC/GETTY)

Photo2: Harrison Ford and his wife Calista Flockhart with 22 years age gap (Photo credit:STEVE GRANITZ/WIREIMAGE)

Does Age Matter in a Romantic Relationship?

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“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter” (Mark Twain).

INTRODUCTION

The saying that “Age doesn’t matter” is a popular expression among people for those who fall in love with a wide age gap. They say that love is blind. So, it’s okay to be blinded by the age of one’s crush or lover. Experts on romantic love acknowledge that falling in love is indeed a strong positive energy that makes a person less aware of the consequences of having a big age gap in romantic relationship. One can be so enamored with the other person’s beauty, popularity, personality, social status, or wealth, that he or she forgets that the other person is either too old or too young for him/her! I already encountered some people who fell in love or even got married despite a wide age difference. When I was a boy, our 20-year old nanny was having a secret love affair with our 60-year old neighbor who was a widower with married children. It was indeed embarrassing during their wedding ceremony as the officiating priest had mistaken the groom as the parent of the bride and one of the young best men as the groom! Despite the age gap, they manage to have 3 children before the old man died.

AGE AS A SOCIAL NORM IN SOCIETY

Age really does matter in relationship despite romanticism of some people that it doesn’t affect romantic relationships. In sociology, age is an informal and unwritten social norm. Society has some standards on what age bracket is appropriate for a particular type of relationship, depending on the local culture. Whether one likes it or not, society has a way of classifying people engaging a particular type of social interaction. Defying this informal norm in a romantic relationship can lead to unintended informal and psychological sanction from the public, such as ridicule, suspicion, rumor, gossip, digital bashing in the social media, or even public shaming by people who strongly oppose the relationship. Try to hold hands and show romantic affection with an older man or woman while walking in a public park and you’ll never miss seeing people whispering or giggling in disbelief, or staring at you as if something is terribly wrong, especially when you’re in a rural setting! Generally, women like their men to be a little older and more experienced and mature in life. But if the age gap is quite wide, many people would probably start to think that it is not romantic love or true love that motivates the attraction but something else, maybe the wealth of the older partner.

Age as informal norm in society is not, however, an absolute rule! One can see couples with a big age difference. Among the Hollywood celebrities, the famous actor Michael Douglas and actress Catherine Zeta-Jones were married despite their age difference. These Oscar winners tied their knot in 2000, when Catherine was 31 years old and Michael was 56.

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Michael, 56 years old, with wife Catherine, 31 (Photo credit: hollywood.com)

In the Philippines, the famous folk singer Freddie Aguilar fell in love with a 16-year old girl and managed to marry her in Islamic rites. Under the Shariah law, a 16-year old can contract a valid marriage but not under the current 1987 Family Code of the country for Christians. Apparently both decided to change religion to tie the knot.

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Freddie, 60 years old, with his 16-year old wife (Photo credit: Poklat.com)

Another famous noontime TV host and comedian married a younger woman more than twice his age. The 61-year old veteran Filipino comedian Vic Sotto married the 27-year old TV host Pauleen Luna in a private wedding.

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Pauleen Luna, 27 years old and Vic Sotto, 61 (Photo Credit: gmanetwork.com)

If it is not an arranged marriage sanctioned by culture, people can be suspicious of the motive if they see romantic couples with a wide age gap. They often suspect wealth and/or social status as the main motive why the younger partner “falls in love” with the older guy. This suspicion can have a grain of truth. Normally, people are first attracted to others through their physicality. People project and communicate to the world though their bodies. Appearance matters during the initial encounter of partners in romantic love. Many surveys showed that the person’s eyes as the sexiest or most attractive body part during infatuation. They say that the eyes is the window of the person’s soul. The woman’s big breasts and butts associated with femininity and fertility are also attractive to men, while a tall height, a flat and strong abdomen and chest are attractive physical traits for women. But old people generally cannot boast their physical assets to attract younger people to enter into a romantic relationship with them. Thus, people become cynical of seeing a young and old couple romantically linked with each other.

Physicality, however, can take a backseat if the young and old partners become intimate and learn more about the cultural or non-physical aspects of the relationship such as knowing the other’s attitude, personality, social status, and value system. So people can be suspicious if a poor young woman falls in love with an old rich man as the latter’s youthful physicality has already been deteriorated by age. If he is not extremely handsome and sexy despite his age, it is understandable for them to conclude that it is not the physical appearance but probably the person’s wealth and social status that motivate her to love the other. Age then matters in discerning whether the relationship is truly a romantic love that can lead to marital love or just what the sociologist Anthony Giddens calls as “confluent love” or a contingent form of love without commitment, a love that is based on mutual and temporal satisfaction of the romantic partners–“enjoying the relationship while it lasts.”

In the next blog, we’ll discuss why a wide age gap can be a problem in the interaction and adjustment of the couple as they stay longer in the romantic relationship and marriage. This will also show that age matters in romantic or marital interaction! Cheers!

 

 

Is Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder?

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The famous quote (most probably by Margaret Wolfe) which says: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is assumed to be true by many. But for sociologists, this quote may be partly true and partly false.

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In the commercial world of art, for instance, beauty does depend on the eyes of ordinary people or viewers but in the eyes of the art critics and patrons who determine what is beautiful and what is not, what is priceless or cheap in the art world of museums, auctions and art exhibits.

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It’s true that art can be subjective. It depends on the beholder or the person who sees and evaluates a piece of art. And since each person has his/her own culture and notions of beauty which s/he learns from his/her own society, judgments on what is beautiful or not vary across various nations and nationalities.

But commercial art has its own subculture and notion of beauty where art critics and patrons reign supreme! These gatekeepers determine the standards of beauty and the price of art in the world of auction sales.

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Is it Natural to Fall in Love? Check this out!

 Have you experienced falling in love? What was it like? Did it feel natural?

      One biological theory suggests that falling in love is like “being drunk.” The love hormone can make people fall in love, making them “drunk” with erotic passion and altruism. Scientists who prescribed to this theory identified the hormone associated with falling in love as oxytocin, a hormone produced in one part of the brain called hypothalamus which is said to be playing a significant role in bonding, falling in love, and making friendship. To some social scientists at the School of Psychology at Birmingham University, the love hormone of oxytocin has an intoxicating effect to lovers similar to alcohol. It relaxes people and removes their social inhibition, anxiety, and fear when falling in love with their partners. It increases their pro-social behavior such as generosity, empathy, and trust and makes them feel more relaxed, happy, and confident in their romantic relationship.

     The biological approach to romantic love suggests that falling in love is primarily influenced by people’s biological or physiological make-up and not by the social environment is somehow unacceptable to sociologists. To sociologists, falling in love is basically a socially-learned experience and behavior, determined by societal factors and not merely by hormones. The biological and bodily reactions felt by people when they fall in love are triggered and shaped by cultural forces outside the self. In the sociology of emotions, for instance, sociologists believe that people’s emotions are determined by society and culture. Thus, people’s deep feelings and emotions of love are primarily a product of cultural and social conditioning. In the same manner, people’s romantic feelings and expressions are learned and shaped by the local culture and not solely by biology. In many primitive societies, for instance, where arranged marriages and betrothals are common cultural practice, romantic love between the bride and groom is not a prerequisite for marriage. The feeling of falling in love and romance is nonexistent in these societies because there are no romantic things and expectations that can trigger the so-called love hormones and people’s minds are not ideologically conditioned to fall in love. Therefore, the idea that people must fall in love in courtship before marriage is not universal or found in all human societies. In many non-Western societies, couples do not fall in love before marriage. Some couples do not even know each other before the wedding. In these societies, the families and relatives are tasked to find the lifelong partner for their bride or groom and arrange the marriage. In Southern Philippines, a council of Muslim elders decided the marriage between a young and beautiful 20-year old girl and a 60-year old Moro rebel leader who already had 3 wives. The girl neither personally knew nor met him before their wedding. She only knew him through a photo given to her by the council before the ceremony. Thus, there was no falling in love and romantic love between them before marriage. And the marriage seemed to work well and they were blessed with beautiful kids. In Bangladesh, the youngest marriage in the world took place without romance and falling in love. According to 2001 Guinness Book of World Records, the youngest marriage involved an eleven-month-old baby boy and a three-month-old girl. The marriage took place in order to end a twenty-year feud between the children’s families (Delaney, 2012). These two cases illustrate that falling in love is not always required before marriage. It is not a natural or biologically-determined behavior such as drinking or eating which can bring death to the couple without it. People will not die without falling in love and romance. Think of the thousands of celibate Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, and other religious monks and religious who live normal and generous lives despite being unmarried and chaste throughout their life. For sociologists, falling in love and romantic love are social constructions of society that started in the late 18th century in order to preserve the institution of marriage. Because of industrialization, migration, and urbanization, the influence of families and relatives in the arrangement of marriages declined. Thus, society has to create and manage various socialization tools such as romantic music, novels, films, posts, cards, stories, and other romantic things and processes in order to condition people’s minds that to fall in love is natural and a necessity for marriage.

     If falling in love and romantic love are socially learned behavior, then people should have some control over them. With sufficient knowledge about what men and women look for in their partners, romantic people, for instance, can change or enhance their looks and appearance. With the advent of modern medicine, cosmetic surgery, and other physical enhancing technology, they can change and improve their looks and appearance to make them attractive to their crushes or partners. They can also manage and improve their personal impressions in social interaction and dating by taking up personality-enhancing courses to make themselves romantically desirable and attractive to others. Through sufficient knowledge on the dynamics of romantic love and falling in love, they can, furthermore, discern which of their suitors are deserving of their true love and which of their romantic relationships is deceptive, obsessive, or authentic and leading towards marital commitment. Finally, they can structure and schedule their social functions to make themselves visible and desirable to people whom they want to establish romantic relationships. It is not true that real love and romance are written in the stars and determined by fate. More often, true love can be found and realized through  scientific knowledge on romantic love and marriage, mature and realistic decision-making process, and proper social positioning and management of the social tools of romantic love.

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Cultural Compatibility Matters in Romance

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Photo credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There is a popular belief that romantic relationship fails because of personal incompatibility. People who fall in love eventually separate due to irreconcilable differences. Many say that differences in personality are often the cause of  break-up. But one can rarely hear from people blaming the cultural incompatibility between partners as the main culprit why lovers separate. Culture refers to the way of life of a particular group of people. It refers to anything a person learns from his/her environment from beliefs, values, norms, art to all material things such as food, tools, etc. An American, for instance, who falls in love with an Asian implies a wide cultural incompatibility from cultural taste, cultural values, beliefs, and views. This can cause a lot of conflict when they stay together as lovers and spouses. The American, for instance, may encounter a cultural shock that his Asian wife values her relatives and becomes dependent on them even if she is already married.

A person’s personality is highly influenced by culture and not by his/her genes or biological make-up. Only few human behaviors are caused by biology, most are socially learned through culture and nurture:

“All relationships are to some extent cross-cultural, in that both parties come together from different families to build a new unit together. Whilst for many couples this will be a natural set of compromises to which both partners will adjust naturally over time – for others the differences can be fundamental, with one finding it difficult to understand the others way of looking at the world and vice versa”.

Particular challenges faced by people with different cultural background:

  • coping with religious differences
  • loss of identity
  • daily disagreements over small things – cooking, hygiene, standards, rituals etc.
  • different ideas about the meaning of love, family and relationships
  • different methods of dealing with conflict
  • unsupportive families.

Some lifestyle disagreements include:

  • Eating and drinking – Different cultures have different views on alcohol consumption and diets vary greatly around the world.

  • Clothing – Sometimes people change what they wear to fit in with another culture.

  • Chore distribution – Different views on gender roles can spark conflict when it comes to distributing domestic chores.

  • Money – Money can be a big stumbling block when it comes to relationship harmony. How people deal with money, how they value money and how they spend it can be quite dependent on the culture they come from [1].

It’s not true as portrayed in romantic stories that love is made in heaven with couple not encountering cultural differences in romantic relationships. Romantic love can lead to true love and commitment if  a couple transcends cultural differences and constantly negotiate to stay together “till death do us part”! True love is loving the person despite his/her cultural identity and saying “I love because you’re you!”

[1]http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/cross-cultural-relationships.

How to Mend a Broken Heart!

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1. INTRODUCTION

To experience a broken heart in romantic love is indeed painful but passing. There’s no pain that won’t subside and heal. It depends on how the broken-hearted person deals with the pain and positions himself/herself in an environment that can gradually erase the painful memory.  Let’s first read Rona’s letter before we’ll tackle this problem (from Joe the Mango’s love notes):

Dear Joe,
It’s been 3 years since my friend Diane wrote u my story. We’re now professionals and are both doing good in our jobs.
I would like to give you a background on how my life 3 years ago was – you see I was the one hopelessly fighting for the love Fr. Kiko and I shared. It was love beyond compare. Indeed there were lots of sacrifices we endured . I must admit I was blinded, we tried to be like a normal couple but we were just not meant to be. All of a sudden he changed, he avoided me and I was left devastated.
During that time, John came. He was an old acquaintance. He was a former partner in a school dance and he was so sweet and thoughtful. Just for fun, we decided to have a trial relationship. I was nursing a broken heart back then and he was a welcome escape for me.
But as the time passed by. I found myself slowly falling for him. It was a smooth sailing relationship. And so even when Fr. Kiko made it known to me that he still exists, I completely forgot about him. My relationship with John became deeper. He introduced me to his parents and I introduced him to my family too and they got along pretty well. I could not ask for more, Joe. A family who loves me, a stable job, lots of friends and a boyfriend who loves me more than anybody else. Or so I thought.
On our first year as a couple, our relationship suddenly came to a halt. A friend of mine caught him arm in arm with another lady moonlighting in Tagaytay. My friend told me about it. But I was not about to freak out without asking him. I confronted him but he told me it’s not true. I can’t deny the fact that John is indeed, two timing me. But instead of throwing a fit of anger to him, I stooped down and blindly understood him. He pleaded for my forgiveness and I readily gave it to him. Call it foolishness, but that was how I loved him. Our relationship went on, this time in a deeper level. Marriage in two years time was in the air.
And so I programmed my mind that he was the one for me. We celebrated our second year anniversary promising each other that the love we shared will be there always and forever. But I was wrong. Late last year after a petty quarrel, he decided to break up with me. I was caught unguarded, my hopes and dreams came shattering in front of me. I didn’t know what to do. It was as if my whole life had fallen into pieces. I asked him why and he casually said he needed time and space. Not measuring the pain I felt, I gave him what he wanted. Maybe, that’s what will make him happy and contented. The days passed by and I anxiously waited for him to come back, but I waited in vain. I came to know that he was courting one of his officemates. I guess that’s why it seemed so easy for him to end the relationship. How could he betray me, twice, when I gave him my full trust. But, Joe, I was still foolishly in love with him. I silently prayed and wished that we can mend this broken relationship….
As always,
RONA

 

2. TIPS ON MENDING A BROKEN HEART

There are lots of romantics out there nursing a broken heart because they cannot forget the past and move on with their lives. To be rejected by somebody we love in a romantic relationship is painful. Since people’s minds are conditioned by society that to fall in love is natural, the bodily and psychological effects of a broken romantic love to people’s live can be devastating. Since people are historical beings, the pain of a broken heart is not forever. It can heal depending on how we deal with the past experience and how we change our social environment. Here are some important tips to expedite the healing of a broken heart:

 

  1. Avoid all things that can remind you of the past relationship. 

    Avoid people, places, and things that can remind you of your former lover. The more you hold on to the past, the longer the healing process  to end. Always remember, that this person is only one of the many millions of people you can associate yourself with in the future. This relationship has ended and there is no reason to hold on to it. Probably, it is the happy memories of the past that keep you clinging to the failed romance. But it is only a matter of time that you can meet your next lover, depending on your attitude and openness to begin  a new relationship.

  2. Change something in your self and environment to mark a new beginning of your life. 

    You can change your looks, hair, or fashion which can make you feel good about yourself. Some people would cut their hair or have a new hairstyle to forget the past. If possible, you can change your job or activities that would remind you of your former lover and past experience. You can engage in new sports, hobbies, or enhance your talents to heal the wound and repair your broken ego. Achieving something for yourself and others can improve your self-confidence and help you forget the past.

  3. Evaluate your past mistakes and try to avoid them in your next relationship.

    Learn from your mistakes. Do your homework before you decide to enter a new relationship. Do some background check first before saying “yes” to your next lover! A simple research whether the person is already married, a womanizer, or a drug dependent, etc. can avoid a lot of future headaches! Also, check whether you can manage the cultural difference with your next love. Marrying a foreigner or a person with a different cultural background can also cause a lot of headaches in personal compatibility and adjustment.

  4. Be patient. Only time can heal a broken heart. There is no medicine or pain reliever that you can take to remove the romantic pain immediately. 

    Just don’t panic. All romantics undergo the painful experience of nursing a broken heart. The good news is that this pain will be more bearable  as you grow in experience, maturity, and wisdom in romantic relationship. To mend a broken heart is more painful for first-timers but less for experienced lovers and repeaters.

  5. Don’t forget to pray and ask God to guide you.

    Based on research, religious people are likely to hurdle difficult problems in life than non-religious. Romance is only temporary but faith in God is eternal. What matters is your ultimate goal in life. Don’t lose sight of it. One failed experience should not define you life. Rise and see the beauty of life!

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